In the closing credits of this,Wes Anderson’s latest flick, it says it was inspired by the works of the Austrian Jewish writer Stefan Zweig. It tells the story of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes) a famous concierge of an elegant hotel in a fictional European country and largely takes place between the two world wars. The tale is narrated to a writer staying at the hotel by its current owner (F. Murray Abraham), who served his apprenticeship under Gustave. The film is amusing enough but anyone hoping that it will capture the feel of the interwar time period or be atmospheric in any way is bound to be disappointed. Even the Nazis and their swastikas are replaced by a fictitious group. But, as I say, the thing is amusing, more humorous than witty but not lacking in intelligence. Part of the humor arises out of the character of Gustave himself in the contrast between his cultural sophistication and moral grossness.
In the final minutes of the film it tries to be a bit more than a mere comedy. It philosophizes about the character and significance of Gustave and–and this may be how it was “inspired” by Zweig– aims at some sort of historical melancholy. The problem with this, as I see it, is that nothing of what goes before makes this change of tone in the least convincing. It seems, rather, synthetic and pretentious.